After the women’s volleyball team took a trip to the NEWMAC semifinals and the NCAA Division III Sweet 16, the Pride has a big season to try and top. So far, Springfield is currently 7-2 after losing to the 2016 NEWMAC Champion MIT.
This season the Pride has been focusing on their communication, which was a game changer in their 3-1 win over Amherst. After dropping the first set, the Pride stepped up their communication both offensively and defensively to win the next three sets.
“Ultimately our team understands that it starts with communication, so they have worked really hard on their communication just on and off the court and getting to know each other and being comfortable with one another and then just holding a standard with what we expect on and off the court,” said head coach Moria Long.
The Pride has many returning players such as juniors Jen Donnelly and Hayley Kmetz. So far for this season Donnelly leads the team in kills averaging 3.7 per set while Kmetz is second on the team with 2.48 per set. Donnelly currently leads the NEWMAC in kills so far this season and is ranked No. 3 in kills per set. Kmetz, who was named the Most Outstanding Player of the weekend at the Springfield College Invitational, is No. 7 in NEWMAC for total kills so far this season.
“What I’m most proud about for Jen and Hayley is their leadership,” said Long. “I think from a play stand point they obviously have a lot to contribute on the court in terms of their passing, their defense and their offense, but their leadership and their voice has been the most tremendous.”
Another key returner for the Pride this season is senior Kayleigh Helgesen. Last season Helgesen was second on the team in kills, with 313, and blocks, with 59. Helgesen was also named to the NEWMAC Second Team All-Conference and earned AVCA New England All-Region Team honors and AVCA Honorable Mention All-American.
Sophomore libero Anagabrielle Sanchez had a standout first season with the Pride where she earned multiple honors including being named to the NEWMAC First Team All-Conference, the AVCA New England All-Region team, the New England Co-Freshman of the Year, and the ECAC 2016 Division III New England Women’s Volleyball All-Star Team. Sanchez also earned AVCA Honorable Mention All-America. Last season with the Pride, Sanchez led the team defensively with 5.3 digs per set, which added up to 636 digs on the season. This season Sanchez has already been named the NEWMAC Women’s Volleyball Defensive Athlete of the Week and leads in the conference with 181 digs and 5.48 digs per set.
Last season the Pride graduated four seniors, but the team hasn’t focused on who they’ve lost.
“We believe that everybody has their strengths, and everybody brings something and everybody has some purpose on the court, we really haven’t talked about what we lost we really have just focused on what we have ahead of us,” said Long.
Lauren Holt, who graduated this spring, was one of biggest names in the conference for women’s volleyball. Holt was No. 1 on the team in kills and blocks with 347 and 193 respectively. On top of multiple NEWMAC Athlete of the Week awards Holt was named to the NEWMAC All-Conference First Team, CoSIDA Capital One Academic All-District team, AVCA All-Region honors and AVCA First Team All-America.
“When we graduate people you can’t fill a hole, I think ultimately someone is going to get Lauren’s swing, someone is going to have the opportunity to have Lauren’s blocks and we really haven’t talked about trying to fill that, ultimately we talk about what each individual can bring to the court,” stated Long.
The freshman class have already made a huge impact on the court this season as setter Kayley Cimino had 43 assists, six digs, and six blocks in the Prides win over Amherst College. Overall Cimino leads the Pride in assists with 205 and is No. 4 on the team in digs with 62.
“A setter is just like a quarterback in football, they have to run a lot of plays and they have a lot on their mind,” explained Long. “They have to work with me closely just to run the offense and she’s just taken it all in and not let it overwhelm her so that’s really important for any first year.”
Another addition to the Pride this season has been transfer Katie VonKampen. VonKampen, who played her first season at Division II Georgian Court University, is now No. 5 on the team for kills with 38. At Georgian Court, VonKampen had 122 kills and 29 blocks in her first season. “We are expecting great things from Katie, she’s had some really big matches for us, big blocks, big offense, but she also has the ability to lead not only in her play but in her voice and that’s a unique thing for a transfer.”